Ceremony marks �1m priory work

The Bishop of Norwich led a celebratory service yesterday to mark the completion of a six-year project to conserve one of Norfolk's most impressive monastic ruins.

The Bishop of Norwich led a celebratory service to mark the completion of a six-year project to conserve one of Norfolk's most impressive monastic ruins.

Binham Priory has undergone almost �1m of work to preserve the crumbling precinct walls and make the remains of the early Benedictine monastery more accessible for future generations.

The exhaustive planning, fundraising and building were arranged by partners Binham Priory Trust, Binham Parochial Church Council and the Norfolk Archaeological Trust.

As well as conservation work to the gate house and medieval buttresses, the priory now has improved disabled access and a secondary entrance porch into the church.

A service building has also been built to display historical artefacts from excavations around the site and information panels detailing the rich history of the building have been placed in the church.

The Rt Rev Graham James met the project team on Sunday before addressing a congregation of 200 guests including representatives from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided the bulk of the funding.

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Bishop Graham said: “I am delighted to see it complete. One of the reasons the project has succeeded is because there is a church which is visionary and a strong local community which sees the value of it.

“It is all about conserving and enhancing a wonderful building, and the community which inhabits it.”

The new building, constructed within the footprint of the original north aisle, contains displays of medieval pottery fragments and glasswork, on view for the first time since they were unearthed in the 1930s.

Pauline Scott, part of the project team, said the pottery came from as far afield as Holland and Germany - proving the wealth of the priory during its heyday.

“Everybody thinks it is a great addition to the priory and the information panels inside are a lovely way to explain the history of the building and its religious changes,” she said.

“It is truly amazing. I don't think the team have really recognised that they have finished the project yet.”

The priory was founded in 1091 by Peter de Valognes, a wealthy Norman baron who was a nephew of William the Conqueror. The only remaining intact part of the priory is the nave, which was the area of worship set aside for local people in the Middle Ages and still serves as the village church.

Project leader David Frost said: “We are delighted with the results but more importantly the whole community has worked together to make this happen. The project will open the building to a much wider audience which we hope will ensure the future of Binham Priory”.